Chino High students and coaches continued to wrestle with their emotions Thursday after the death of a 16-year-old football player who had been injured during a practice two days before.
Scott Maughan, a junior linebacker, died Wednesday after collapsing while taking part in a defensive drill Tuesday night.
"We're just trying to take it one day at a time," Coach John Monger said. "We've always stressed family in our program. Every player is so important to us. . . . We're just going to try and go forward because that's what he would want us to do."
Maughan's father addressed the football team during a morning practice Thursday.
"His father told us that we shouldn't blame ourselves for what happened and he thanked us for being a part of Scotty's life," said Erik Cardona, a senior fullback.
"A lot of people have asked me, 'Why are you practicing? Why don't you take a day off?' It's not disrespect. The coaches especially are taking it very hard, as are the players. We kind of play off each other for strength. When we see them hurting, we hurt too. They loved him like a son just like all of us loved him too."
An autopsy was performed Thursday, but the official cause of death will not be known for several weeks, said Randy Emon, deputy coroner for San Bernardino County.
"We're waiting for the results of microscopic studies by our doctors," Emon said. "Those studies will tell us if it was a preexisting condition or if an injury at football practice caused death."
Maughan, one of only two sophomores to play on last season's Southern Section Division IV championship team, had become wobbly before falling to the ground.
A school trainer provided immediate assistance, paramedics were called and Maughan was airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 12:35 p.m. Wednesday.
"People get injured a lot in football," Cardona said, "but you never think you're going to die. That's what's so difficult to comprehend still."
Chino students are not due to begin classes until Tuesday, but several made their way to campus to express their grief. Some stopped to write a message on a sign that was hung on the fence in front of the school gym. "In Memory of Scott. You Will Be Missed," was painted in blue on a large white piece of cardboard. Members of the football team had signed their names and numbers and tied small blue ribbons to the fence.
Monger said Chino players will have Maughan's initials put on their helmets to honor their teammate. Youth ministers from local churches conducted a memorial service Thursday night beneath the school's marquee.
Despite the sport's violent nature, football fatalities, spinal injuries and brain injuries have substantially decreased over the last 30 years, said Dr. Fred Mueller, director of the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina.
In 1968, 26 deaths resulted from football injuries, Mueller said. Today, because of rule changes regarding tackling, standards for helmets and the presence of qualified trainers on site, about five or six deaths occur annually among about 1.5 million high school and junior high school football players, Mueller said.
No football-related deaths because of head injury were reported in 1990, the only year that has happened since 1931, Mueller said. Last year, six players died from head or neck trauma while playing football, none in Southern California.